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(1,227 words)

Author(s): Stausberg, Michael
No one knows exactly when and where Zarathustra, the ‘founder’ of → Zoroastrianism, lived. In fact, it is not even certain whether Zarathustra represents a historical individual at all. Even in the most ancient sources, the ‘historical Zarathustra’ appears as a remarkably nebulous figure, later to be repeatedly overlaid with mythology, theology, ritual, literature, iconography, and ideology. The Gathas The name Zarathustra (or Zarathushtra) appears in five very ancient hymns, the ‘Gathas’ (‘songs’), composed in an ancient Iranian language. It is not cer…


(4,121 words)

Author(s): Stausberg, Michael
Designations ‘Zoroastrianism’ is the modern designation (established in colonial times) for one of the oldest living religious traditions of mankind. The name refers to one of the Greek names of its ‘founder’ Zoroaster, known as Zarathushtra in the sources from ancient → Iran (→ Zarathustra). In antiquity, most Greek authors referred to the religion simply as ‘the religion of the Persians,’ while indigenous sources termed it as the ‘good’ or the ‘mazda-worshipping’ religion—the latter term focusi…


(3,943 words)

Author(s): Stausberg, Michael
Even if one's point of departure is the premise that the human being is by nature predisposed to religion (cf., Lat.: homo naturaliter religiosus; homo religiosus)—to a certain extent recent cognitive approaches to the study of religion present a resurgence of that view—it still remains to be explained how, ideally, a helpless nursling becomes a competent member or competent client of a given religion. From generation to generation, religions must be creatively reproduced. ‘Socialization,’ and ‘upbringing,’ ‘education,’…


(2,436 words)

Author(s): Stausberg, Michael | Cancik, Hubert | Seidl, Theodor | Kollmann, Bernd | Schneider-Ludorff, Gury | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies As with many animals, purification is a basic area of human behavior. Mutual purifying implies and generates expectations, trust, solidarity, and hierarchy. Religious actions (e.g. the purifying of statues and pictures of gods) go back to identical structures. Purifying is a fundamental element of ritual actions. Ritual objects, but also the actors themselves, are purified. This process is often self-referential: purification happens not with regard to something unclean, but for the ritual. Purifica…

Pure and Impure

(4,031 words)

Author(s): Stausberg, Michael | Seidl, Theodor | Kollmann, Bernd | Schneider-Ludorff, Gury | Wandrey, Irina | Et al.
[German Version] I. Comparative Religion In differentiated religious systems or cultures, the categories of clean and unclean, or purity and impurity, represent a key classificatory-communicative distinction which determines the course of inner boundaries (e.g. those between clergy and laity or women and men) and outer boundaries (e.g. between believers and “pagans,” in-group/out-group). It enjoys particular plausibility in the context of dualistic models such as Zoroastrianism, for example (Zarathu…

Rite and Ritual

(6,139 words)

Author(s): Hutter, Manfred | Stausberg, Michael | Schwemer, Daniel | Gertz, Jan Christian | Hollender, Elisabeth | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies 1. The terms The terms rite and ritual are often used synonymously, both in daily speech and in the specialized language of religious studies, leading to a lack of clarity. “Rite” is etymologically related to Sanskrit ṛta, “right, order, truth, custom,” and may thus be regarded as the “smallest” building block of a ritual, which can be defined as a complex series of actions in a (logical) functional relationship. Within a three-level sequence, cult (Cult/Worship : I, 2) must also be taken into cons…